Brussels, June 16, 2020
On 16 June, the ICT4Water cluster Annual meeting gathered nearly 150 professionals from the smart water community and over 30 member projects to work together on the digital transformation of the water sector. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s annual meeting took place online. The event was organised by EASME with the support from DG CONNECT and comprised of presentations from keynote speakers and interactive panel discussions. The moderator of the event was Sotirios Kanellopoulos, EASME Project adviser H2020 Eco-innovation.
In her welcome speech, Carmen Mena Abela (EASME Head of Sector Eco-Innovation). noted that “a lot has been achieved in the last year, but the momentum is even more favourable for the ICT4Water cluster”. ICT4Water projects are employing digital solutions as a means to achieve a greener value chain in water management, agriculture and water-intense industries. Thus the twin digital and green transitions embraced by Europe are the core of the cluster’s mission. She underlined that the cluster fits perfectly in the COVID recovery plan but it will also need to adapt to the new objectives of the Commission and need to continue delivering tangible results contributing to the welfare of the people in Europe and the environment.
The event hosted several presentations and panel discussions, grouped in three sessions:
1) ICT4Water in the EU policy context
2) ICT4Water and COVID-19
3) ICT4Water, Action Plan and Action Groups
ICT4Water in the EU policy context
Avelino Gonzalez Gonzales (DG RTD) presented the structure of the upcoming Horizon Europe programme and the placement of water related research and innovation in the programme. The programme is built upon three Pillars: Pillar 1- Excellent Science, Pillar 2 – Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness and Pillar 3 – Innovative Europe. Pillar 2 contains six clusters where environmental research, including water research and innovation is mostly covered in Cluster 6 with links to most of the other clusters. Avelino also pointed out the proposed European partnership Water4All.
Andrea Halmos (DG CONNECT) presented funding opportunities for smart and sustainable cities which are intertwined with effective smart water management solutions. Andrea Halmos highlighted three digital programmes under Europe’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) being relevant to ICT4Water:
- Horizon Europe: Pillar 2, especially the research challenges in Cluster 5 – “Climate, Energy and Mobility”, with a proposed budget of 15 billion euro. They contribute to achieving the mission of climate-neutral and smart cities.
- Digital Europe Programme: With a total budget of 9.2 billion euro, the programme covers research on smart & sustainable cities and communities with topics such as Artificial Intelligence and a smart communities dataspace.
- Connecting Europe Facility 2 (CEF2): With a focus on operational digital platforms and synergy projects in energy and mobility and a budget of 3 billion euro, CEF2 aims to advance the Digital Service Infrastructures required for smart and sustainable cities.
Panel discussion with policy makers
Policy makers from DG Environment (Tobias Biermann), DG Energy (Anne Katherina Weidenbach) DG Climate Action (Andras Toth) and DG CONNECT (Andrea Halmos) sat in a panel to discuss about the “ICT4Water cluster in support of new EU priorities”. The panel was moderated by Dragan Savic, CEO of KWR Water Research Institute.
The conclusion of this panel was that within the different DGs water is in the radar and this is reflected in their policies and directives. EU-funded platforms like FIWARE are consulted during the development of new policies. It was made clear that not all proposals from the Commission are adopted without changes by the European Parliament and the Council. For example, for the new Drinking Water Directive the Commission proposed a monthly reporting period, while member states opted for a yearly reporting period. It was also pointed out that the main barrier for adopting climate mitigating measures by member states is siloed thinking.
Panellists probed the audience with questions via sli.do getting some noteworthy replies in return. For example, in response to the question “Digitalization of which part of the water sector contributes mostly in Energy efficiency?” 48% replied “Water distribution” while 36% “Waste Water treatment”. Trying to interpret the results, perhaps the former case points to efficiency due to energy savings while the later case to energy efficiency due to energy recovery from waste water.
ICT4Water and COVID-19
This session was dedicated to the COVID 19 and the relevance to the water sector.
Evdokia Achilleos (EASME) presented the relevant activities supported by the European Union and drawing attention to the European Research Area Corona Platform and the relevant proposed activities by on-going H2020 Water Research and Innovation projects.
Sewers4COVID team members Lydia Vamvakeridou Lyroudia (KWR Water Research Institute), Chrysi Laspidou (University of Thessaly), Mehdi Khoury (University of Exeter) and Gabriel Anzaldi (Eurecat) presented together with Gertjan Medema (KWR Water Research Institute) their Sewers4Covid solution. Sewage research
Gertjan Medema presented the current status of sewage research and explained how sewage surveillance contributes worldwide to the fight against COVID-19. In the Netherlands, sewage surveillance is now part of the national dashboard for tracking the development of COVID-19 and detection of breakouts, enabling decision makers to make timely mitigation measures based on reliable data.
#EuVsVirus winner team Sewers4COVID
A dream team of 15 professionals from five different institutes spread across four countries has won the #EUvsVIRUS Hackathon with their solution named Sewers4COVID. The Hackathon was an initiative organised in April by the European Commission aimed to connect civil society, innovators, partners and investors from all over the world to develop innovative solutions for coronavirus related challenges. The team members, who know each other from the cluster project Sim4Nexus, combined different skills like microbiology, AI and data analysis. In only 60 hours they went from idea to presenting a working prototype.
Sewers4COVID is an early warning system combining different data sources to provide decision makers with reliable data to base their decisions on regarding COVID measures. For future development of the system, openness of the data and the platform is required. Collaboration with similar initiatives is sought on local, regional, national, European and global level.
Before Q&A, a video by Water Europe on “A Water-Smart Society for a Successful post-COVID19 recovery plan” was broadcasted.
ICT4Water, Action Plan and Action Groups
This session started with an inspiring presentation by Charlotte Dupont, COO and co-founder of Bioceanor. She presented the history and activities of her company, which is offering digital aquaculture solutions to improve the efficiency of fish farms. To this aim, the company implements real-time monitoring of water quality that enables smart feeding and algae bloom alert.
Panel discussion on the implementation of the Action Plan
The leaders of the seven Action Groups of the cluster, Franck Le Gall (EGM), Christos Makropoulos (NTUA), Aitor Corchero (Eurecat), Theodora Tsikrika (ITI), Eva Martinez (AQUALIA), Floor Brouwer (Wageningen Research) and Richard Elelman (Eurecat), participated in a panel and discussed on “ICT4Water cluster in support of new EU priorities”. The panel was moderated by Sotirios Kanellopoulos.
Each of the Action Group leaders gave an update of their Action Group, as outlined in the Action Plan, and presented their plans, activities, and results for the coming period. The conclusion of this panel was that presenting the results of the work of the Action Groups in the form of white papers is a good way of reaching a broad audience. Next to that, it was recognised that the cluster should work on strengthening their linkage and collaboration with their key stakeholders, being policy makers on all levels, SMEs and industry, the general public and the water research community itself, to ensure maximum impact of the work done by the cluster projects.
As in the previous panel, panellists probed the audience with questions via sli.do. What emerged was that:
– 21% of the responders considers integration of DSS along water operational activities to be desirable but hardly achievable;
– Gamification is the most promising innovation for changing the landscape in actors awareness;
– Interoperability between water systems is still lagging behind according to 62% of the responders;
– Interestingly, cybersecurity is addressed on average by 3.7 in a scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (to a great extent);
– CAPEX/OPEX reduction takes the lion’s share in the value propositions of digital water business models by 41%;
– Lastly the request to share data across water silos and across sectors (water with energy) is unanimously supported 97% of the responders.
Lydia Vamvakeridou Lyroudia and Gabriel Anzaldi closed the meeting, looking back on an event filled with interesting and relevant presentations and discussions.
Check the EASME event page to visit the projects’ showcase, download presentations and reports of the pools run during the meeting.
Additional materials from the Action Group sessions held on 17 and 18 June are accessible on the ICT4Water Community Platform (reserved only to cluster members – if you need access write to firstname.lastname@example.org).
The ICT4Water Team